2 Irish entries win at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

The winner of the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition and provides an important forum for more than 1,500 second level students from 70 countries to showcase their independent research, took place in Pittsburgh recently and Jack Andraka a 15 year old student from Maryland USA, was awarded first place for his new method to detect pancreatic cancer.

Based on diabetic test paper, Jack created a simple dip-stick sensor to test blood or urine to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer.  His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. Jack received the Gordon E. Moore Award, named in honour of Intel co-founder and retired chairman and CEO of $75,000.

Ireland was represented at the fair by 4 students who brought three projects, two of which won awards. Ruairi O’Neill (16) and Eoghan Flynn (14) of Freshman Blackwater Community School in Waterford, winners of Scifest at Intel, were among those awarded second place in environmental management with their project on alternative fuel generation from end-of-life plastics.

The Waterford students have generated a unique “polyfuel” by processing used plastics. This polyfuel is cleaner burning than conventional diesel and energy efficient in operation.  Some of the gas and petrol produced can be fed back into the system to provide the heating required for breaking down the plastic so nothing is wasted in this incredibly green recycling process.

ISEF Eoin & Ruairi.jpg

Pictured are Ruairi O’Neill and Eoghan Flynn of Freshman Blackwater Community School in Waterford

winners at ISEF 2012 with their project on alternative fuel generation from end-of-life plastics.

The duo came up with the idea when they saw how much unrecyclable plastic was making its way to landfills. They thought it could be reused and so began their research. The unit for creating this polyfuel was literally made from things they found lying around the house: an empty gas cylinder, an empty paint can, bits of piping and the secret ingredient, kitty litter.  Their hope is that homes in the future will have the ability to recycle plastics and generate their own fuel using similar units.

Henrik Bruesecke (19), winner of the Sentinus Young Innovators Competition in Belfast, formerly of St Columba’s Comprehensive School, Glenties, Co Donegal, and now a student of computer science at Trinity College Dublin, won two awards for his work on optimally managing multiple computer processors. In addition to placing fourth in the category of computer science Bruesecke also took second prize from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers at Intel’s Special Awards Ceremony.

Bruesecke’s project is impressively advanced and would not look out of place among MA and PhD studies, he taught himself to code from scratch as a hobby and this project (using two different programming languages) is the culmination of his curiosity. He also begins an internship with Intel this summer.

The third Irish project was from BT Young Scientist winner Aoife Gregg (16) from Loretto College, Dublin. Gregg’s work involves cryptography and letter frequencies in the Irish language to create a tool that can date Irish documents within 100 years. She is also working on applying this to other languages.

Gregg says she was inspired by previous BT Young Scientist winner Sarah Flannery, whose work on the Cayley-Purser Algorithm won her global recognition and a bestselling book In Code – A Mathematical Journey.

Meanwhile the teachers who accompanied the students on their journey to ISEF 2012 were involved in an event called the Intel Educator Academy which runs in conjunction with the fair.  Educators, policy advisers and government officials from around the world meet to discuss Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) education policy and look at ways to improve and update science curricula.

Sheila Porter, founder and manager of the SciFest science competition, which has been running in Ireland since 2006, was in attendance to give a talk on establishing and maintaining a network of science fairs. She spoke about the importance of linking second-level science to university level as well as to government and industry.

“The science curriculum would benefit from being linked to third-level courses and from moving forward to meet 21st century skill requirements,” she said.

Sponsorship of Intel ISEF is one aspect of Intel’s multi-year, multi-million dollar global commitment to education excellence. Intel has been committed to helping students realize the promise of education for decades. In the past decade alone, Intel has invested more than $1 billion worldwide to improve education. Today, Intel invests more than $100 million annually to promote education and technological literacy around the world and has invested over €25m in the Irish education system in the past 20 years.

“We support the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair because we know that math and science are imperative to future global growth,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “This competition encourages millions of students to engage their skills for innovation and develop promising solutions for global challenges.”

About ISEF

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest pre-college science fair competition. Each year, approximately 7 million second level students around the globe develop original research projects and present their work at local science fairs with the hope of winning. Those who do then progress to regional, state and national competitions. Ultimately, the select few – 1,500 promising young innovators – are invited to participate in Intel ISEF. At this week-long celebration of science, technology, engineering and math, students share ideas, showcase cutting-edge research, and compete for more than USD 3 million in awards and scholarships.

Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit membership organisation dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, owns and has administered the International Science and Engineering Fair since its inception in 1950, as the National Science Fair.

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